Originally published as The Cause, Cost and Countermeasure to Conflict in an Organization in The Project Management Times
By Jon Isaacson
If you have dysfunction in your team, the cost may be higher than you want to admit but the cure may also be closer than you realize.
Frustration in the workplace, does such a thing exist? In a recent article in Forbes magazine, researchers discussed the primary sources of disgruntlement within organizations. According to the study, most employees noted that they were frustrated by personality differences and incompetence in their co-workers. This is not news to anyone who has worked in an organizational setting, one human plus one human will eventually equal conflict. The potential for conflict, as well as the intensity and duration, are compounded by the number of humans added to the equation. More people, more problems. What is interesting about the Forbes article is that upon further investigation there was an underlying source which contributed to the environment of dysfunction,
“In fact, teams having conflict had much higher levels of ambiguity in three categories of work: their team’s goals, roles, and procedures. So, while it is very human to assign personal motive and blame in times of trouble, there isn’t really anything personal about the core of workplace conflict. If you back up and look at the facts, a lack of clarity is what’s truly to blame.” (Wakeman, 2015)
The need for clarity is foundational to functionality and trust within an organization. Where there is a lack of clarity, there will be conflict. Office drama is costly, CPP Inc. performed a study in 2008 which discovered that employees in the United States spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict which CPP estimated as costing over $359 billion in paid hours or the equivalent of 385 million working days (Lawler, 2010). Every business understands the need to watch the bottom line, so why are mangers unwilling to recognize the high cost of conflict? Think of it, if every employee in your office could increase engagement and efficiency by 7% by only changing one element, wouldn’t that be something a wise leader would be more intentional about?
Recognize the cost of inaction. Managers spend much of their time putting out fires, and yet our discussion to this point has demonstrated that the cure for dysfunction may be closer that you think. By understanding the cost of conflict, we recognize the value of investing in practices that will help our organization to identify and address these hot beds of discordance within our teams.
Realize the need to eliminate the blame game. When employees focus on blaming each other, too often managers are happy to allow them to target their ire upon each other rather than dealing with the core of these issues which creates a negatively recurring cycle. As noted by the author in a prior article - how leaders respond to conflicts can either reinforce cultural values that strengthen the team, or they can respond in ways that destroy morale (Isaacson, 2016).
Reduce conflict by creating clarity. If the research from Wakeman and her team as outlined in Forbes is accurate, then leaders can make a significant reduction in interpersonal conflict by being more intentional about organizational clarity. As a leader, you can alleviate friction between team members by being more clear about team goals, roles, and procedures as quoted above.
If we can sense the frustration in the organization and we can calculate the deep costs, we should be proactive in working towards long-term solutions. Often inaction is caused by an inability to identify the causes or formulate an effective plan, but now that these have been brought to light the only question left is whether we will be intentional about getting into the mix to make the magic happen. There are no shortcuts when working with interpersonal dynamics but progress is attainable through the countermeasures for the conflict we have discussed.
Wakeman, Cy (2015, June 22) The number 1 source of workplace conflict, and how to avoid it. Forbes. Retrieved fromhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/cywakeman/2015/06/22/the-1-source-of-workplace-conflict-and-how-to-avoid-it/#32a27f89126e
Lawler, Jennifer (2010, June 21) The real cost of workplace conflict. Entrepreneur. Retrieved fromhttps://www.entrepreneur.com/article/207196
Isaacson, Jon (2016, July 11) Eliminating blame in your organization. Retrieved from http://izvents.weebly.com/words/eliminating-blame-in-your-organization
Originally published September 5, 2017 on The Daily Positive as How to identify the right mentor by Jon Isaacson.
Successful professionals understand the importance of learning the hard skills of their chosen craft. But when it comes to management skills, the value of mentorship is often forgotten. Mentoring is a relationship of purpose wherein Professional A enlists Professional B to assist in his personal and/or professional development. Mentorship is broad and unique to the various industries and stages of professional development.
If mentorship were an actual ship, what would that sea craft look like and how can individuals apply this to their search for the right mentor?
Do you need a tugboat?
The tugboat maneuvers vessels by pushing or pulling them. What are the features that the mentee is looking for? The mentee needs someone strong, behind the scenes, understated, and always reliable. A tugboat mentor proves that not all mentors look the same or fit the archetype of the mentorship romance narratives. A mentor who serves like a tug boat will assist those vessels that are unable to propel themselves, whether temporarily due to being disabled by damage or as an assistant for those vessels that are in narrow waters and need assistance with navigation while in a tight spot.
“My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!’” — Jim Rohn
Mentors who specialize in categories of business or management skills can be a vital boost to your advancement as professional. A tugboat relationship may be short in duration or enlisted only when certain circumstances require an extra push. Tugboat mentors are available on call or at scheduled intervals, but they know the boundaries of how engaged to be to assist the mentee in building his own success. Tugboat mentorships are often the least expensive, least involved, and serve for specific durations.
Here are some characteristics to assist in the search of a tugboat mentor: look for quiet strength, don’t overlook professionals who have experience but may not fit preconceived notions, confront whether your current needs are to be pushed or pulled.
Do you need a freighter?
Cargo ships are designed to carry heavy loads from point A to point B. Freighters are equipped for types of cargo, course parameters, and journey duration. The mentee needs someone who can assist with carrying a current project through to its vision destination. Mentors who serve in a cargo capacity may have more than one mentee who they are working with; they may not provide the highest level of individualized care, but they will help carry the process through to completion.
Freighter may be the most common mentorship scenario, as most professionals don’t seek out this level of transparency or assistance until they are faced with an opportunity that is too heavy, too complicated, or stretches them further than they have traveled in their career.
“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” — Junot Diaz
Driven people understand that there are mental road blocks on the way to professional development. Seeking the support of another professional to assist in navigation may be the key to breaking through. A freighter relationship may be a longer duration than the tugboat mentor and yet more utilitarian as the parameters of the interaction are tied to objectives. Mentees who have a clearer understanding of what they need are better able to map out and communicate their needs in an agreement between both mentorship parties.
Here are some characteristics to assist in the search of a freighter mentor: try to determine whether your current need is load specific to a type of heavy burden, experiential in nature to a path that must be traveled, or mission-centric.
Do you need an aircraft carrier?
Aircraft carriers are some of the most expensive ships in the sea, but they are also fitted with the best in technology for intelligence, offense, and defense. As a mentee who is in need of vision, organization, equipment, and support, the aircraft carrier can provide it all, including the ability to send resources to salvage if the mission has crashed and burned. Mentors who work in an aircraft carrier capacity may be utilitarian in providing insights into vision charting, course preparation, or operational assistance, or they may be ordered to intercede in a specific mission.
“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.” — John C. Maxwell
As an aspiring professional, it is important to keep yourself personally and professionally challenged. The value of this can be multiplied by identifying a suitable mentor who will assist you to navigate the most complex systems of interpersonal relationships within leadership roles. The mentee who understands her needs and has the resources can call upon an aircraft carrier mentor to provide mission assistance, whereas the mentee who lacks clarity may call upon the intelligence and support capacities of her carrier mentor.
Here are some characteristics to assist in the search of a carrier mentor: know thyself, and understand where you are and where you are going. With a firm sense of those two items, identifying a mentor who has mastered the skills you are working on will be much more evident.
Professional athletes have coaches and trainers even though they are at the very height of their professional skills, earning, and influence. Seeking the assistance of someone who can assist you to tug, carry, or chart your way through the murky waters of personal development can be a very positive and fulfilling addition to your professional adventure.
Winning habits aren't always the most complex. Enhance clarity to build consistency and establish accountability through the simple discipline of scheduling.
Scheduling is the process of having a plan, or at least attempting to tell you day how you think it should go. Writing down your goals is important to do on the macro level of having a life plan, on the annual level of mapping out your course and on the micro level of having a daily road map. There is something special that happens when we take the time to write things down, there is some connection between the engagement of the brain and the enabling of the will that is connected to committing something to your calendar. Read more on the stories of successful people who are in the habit of writing down their goals, HERE.
Scheduling yourself the day prior or early in the morning enables you to be ahead of your day before the chaos hits and the day takes on a mind of it’s own. If you don't schedule ahead, you will always be playing from behind. You never want to get behind, as we all know - that's where the farts are. Whether you schedule in blocks of time or are down to the minute, prioritization (more) starts with having a target. Real Estate mogul and Shark Tank star, Barbara Cocoran, swears by her daily to-do list which she hand writes every night, prioritizes with a simple rating system and emails to her personal assistant for accountability. In an interview with Inc. Magazine Barbara outlines her process, “I rate the items in order of importance: A, B, or C. The A's are where the gold is. These are the things that will move my business ahead and make me money. I find there are really only three to five A items on any given day, and I do those first.”
Goal setting is a muscle that must be worked out on the daily, it requires mental strength, it will test your will power and it is enhanced by accountability from others. Setting aside time in your day to prepare yourself can be as simple as the habit of writing down your schedule. Organization in this way becomes a powerful habit that will help you to make gains on the items that are important to you. Like budgeting for your finances, a good plan will assist you to spend your time (which is impossible to recoup) where it is needed rather than be in a vicious cycle of questioning where the time went at the end of your day. Making your schedule visible to yourself and your team members creates a level of accountability as well as demonstrates leadership by example (more).
Vince Lombardi has a great saying, “The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win.” Who doesn’t want to win? Yet the thing that separates those who achieve success from those who talk about it is found in the preparation that winners put in. Those hours of discipline do not happen by accident, they come with a commitment to schedule in time for the things that are important, to prioritize and to persevere through the pain. Organization can be painful or just plain overlooked by many, but a successful system does not have to be complex to be effective.
In terms of property restoration every production manager knows that our schedules have to be constructed with a certain amount of flexibility in them for those inevitable calls for emergency services from water or fire related damages. Drafting a schedule the day prior and making the plan visible for the team (more) are key to communicating that leadership respects the team and is committed to helping them to be prepared for the upcoming needs of our clients. Scheduling is a core communication component that shows our employees we care about them and creates a visible game plan through which we are able to communicate effectively with our clients as well (more). The discipline of scheduling your self should carry into the care of scheduling the team and the courtesy of communicating those schedules to our clients.
The will to prepare to win starts with personal habits that translate into organizational systems that guide our core professional services. Being organized forces us to care about and budget our time. Scheduling generates habits that position us to pursue our goals with clarity, consistency and accountability. Simple things can be the difference between long term success (more) and cycles of chaos.
Organizational truth: Don’t get behind, that’s where the farts are.
More from Barbara Cocoran in her interview with Inc. Magazine, including video - https://www.inc.com/magazine/201704/anna-hensel/day-in-the-life-barbara-corcoran.html
Originally published as Shared Spaces: Shaking Up The Restoration In-Office Experience
February 24, 2016 by Restoration & Remediation Magazine (R&R)
By Jon Isaacson
Could restoration companies benefit from a non-traditional work space?
I started my career in property restoration in a shared office with myself, my manager and space designated for our crew to meet and interact. At most places I have worked since, the more normative office is laid out in designated segments of isolation. While I don't dismiss the value of personal space and enjoy my privacy as much as anyone, I have found the value of shared spaced and have worked to create open work space in every team that I have supervised.
Shared Space Equals Shared Experiences
When you share an office, you can feel the pulse of the team. You hear your team, even when you are not conversing with them directly, you are hearing their interactions. While there are times when the noise level has to be managed, when you hire people who are respectful they will likely already understand the dynamics of time and place in an open space.
For our teams the benefits of a communal office within our department has far outweighed the perceived negatives. Imposing an open office on people who are not ready for it is a recipe for disaster. Transitioning to a shared space is made much more seamless when you have people who enjoy working together and/or you hire people who understand the culture. Implementing an open office is not of any benefit if it does not reflect your culture or add value to your team.
Open Space Equals Open Communication
Creating a shared space has allowed us to more readily share information at all levels of our department. Having our crew come into our office in the morning creates a natural opportunity to discuss the day's assignments. When the crew returns in the evening, we can debrief and discuss needs for the following day.
These organic connection points throughout the day have increased our interactions at professional and personal levels. Combining our open space with making our workloads visible has helped us to elevate our clarity across our team interactions.
Your office is your second home. Arguably, you spend more time in your work space with your work peeps than with your actual family, so making it an enjoyable and functional environment should be a priority.
When drafting the plan for your work space - whether open, traditional or some other system with a fancy name - think about the following:
For our department, we have hired people who bring value to the team, we have been protective of the culture that we have developed and we have enjoyed the benefits of a shared work space.
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - More than coaching and consulting, we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer. #MTWSL
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